Pursuit: A new Focus on the Family conference for singles

June 10, 2014

Focus on the Family has something for everyone, including Boundless.org, a ministry to and for young single adults. And this year is a milestone for Boundless as they get ready to host their first conference, Pursuit 2014.

I corresponded with Lisa Anderson, Director of young adults and Boundless.org and host of a podcast, The Boundless Show, to learn more about Boundless.org and its upcoming event. The Boundless Show receives 300,000 to 400,000 listeners per month on a weekly basis and regularly appears in the top 100 Christian podcasts on iTunes.

It’s that audience–and more– that Anderson hopes will make the journey to Colorado Springs, CO on August 7-9 for Pursuit.

What led you to organize Pursuit 2014?

Pursuit 2014 was started largely due to requests from our audience. After engaging on the site, blog, show and social media for years, our audience built a connection with the staff, personalities, writers and fellow readers/listeners. They’ve been asking us for a while now to host a live event where they can put faces to names. Also, there just aren’t many conferences or events out there specifically for single young adults. We wanted to fill that space and show young adults that the journey they’re on matters, too. We want to do whatever we can to encourage them in that.

What is the goal of Pursuit?

Our goal is to provide a weekend for single young adults where they are reminded that God loves them and has a purpose for them. We’ll do that by challenging them to maximize the season they’re in while preparing for the one to come. We want our attendees to gain valuable insights into dating, marriage, career, life responsibility and biblical maturity.

Why now?

We feel we’re in a great place of growth at Boundless.org, and our audience continues to diversify. This is a great opportunity for us to grow a little more by trying something new.

You have a diverse set of speakers joining you at Pursuit. Are there themes for each talk or a list of sessions and descriptions anywhere?

Yes. The topics of the conference reflect the core content/mission of Boundless, which are relationships, life and faith. Here they are:

The title, “Pursuit”, could mean several things. What does the title mean, and how do you hope the participants will apply it?

It has a few meanings. The first is a reminder of God’s relentless pursuit of us. Second, we are to pursue Him wholeheartedly in a culture that is telling us to turn away from Him. Third, we’re asking our folks to pursue maturity with biblical intention in all things. This means actively pursuing relationships, marriage and family, responsibility, holiness and grace in all things.

The conference tag line indicates that it is part conference, part meet-up, and part adventure. Tell me what activities you plan for the meet-ups?

We want this to be more than just a conference. It’s, of course, going to have teaching, worship and a few workshops, but we also want to capitalize on the potential for connection among those who have known and loved Boundless for some time (almost like a family reunion) plus those who are new to Boundless.

The in-person advantage for mature, like-minded single young adults meeting is huge. The meet-ups can go many directions, and we’re letting them be crafted largely by the audience themselves. We’re expecting certain affinity groups to form and will provide space for that. For example, all of the Canadians may want to meet, or those in their 30s, or those in college, or those who are Dr. Who fans. We have one guy from Australia who’s determined to go to Chick-fil-A while he’s here, so he’s already on our Facebook page inviting folks to join him. He has quite a group so far!

I assume the adventure is the 5K. Tell us more about the 5K and what led you to develop one as part of a conference.

The adventure is a bunch of things, including meeting new people, hanging out in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains (many attendees are staying an extra day or two to go rafting, hiking, mountain biking, sightseeing, etc.) and stretching one’s faith. That said, the 5K is part of that. I literally thought of the idea over a year ago in the middle of the night. My thought was, “Why not show, a la Hebrews 13:4, that marriage should be honored by all, beginning with single young adults?” So my vision was to take to the streets of Colorado Springs in public support of marriage and family. But we don’t want to merely do that by ourselves, so we’re opening the 5K to the public and inviting others to run with us, making it a true citywide (or regional) event.

We’re encouraging folks to insert their own story into the experience, so maybe they want to run “for” something, like their grandparents’ marriage that made it more than 50 years, or their parents’ marriage that made it back from the brink of divorce, or their mom who was a pregnant teenager but chose not to abort them and instead chose life, etc. We’ll finish the 5K with food, vendor booths, a book signing by prominent authors at our bookstore, and other activities for the community. The cost of the 5K is really just a break-even. It’s $25, and every registrant gets a race T-shirt.

I saw that you will be doing a live podcast with the Dalys. Will there be a Q&A time, or is it just a live recording?

Yes, Jim and Jean Daly will be featured in one of the segments of a live-to-tape podcast during Pursuit. I’ll be asking them a ton of questions, primarily about their own dating/marriage story, but we probably won’t have time for audience Q&A with them. Jim will also do a general greeting to our audience.

What do you hope to for the attendees?

We want to send our audience away encouraged and fired up to grow in every area of life and determined to reject society’s low expectations of them, and instead, be an example (1 Timothy) to those around us as we pursue faith, life and family with intention. We also want folks to leave with new friendships, a bigger sense of what Boundless and Focus on the Family are, and the sense of having had an inspiring and fun time with new friends.

Is there a deadline or a cap on how many may register?

We can take 900 unless we make adjustments in June that will cause us to cap it at 500-600. Registration is open until mid-July.  We currently have 41 states and 5 countries represented. This audience (based on registration so far) will be super diverse. We’re pulling a great number of African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians thus far. We have a very diverse podcast listenership, which is great.

If you’d like to find out more about Boundless.org and look into attending Pursuit 2014, visit their website.

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24